More about this area

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The force says...

The West Midlands is a predominantly urban area covering the cities of Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Coventry and the districts of Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull and Walsall.

The population is over 2.7 million people (Office for National Statistics estimated an increase of 47,000 people in mid-2013), with an ethnic minority population of 30% and with a high demographic of young people. Birmingham has an ethnic minority population of over 40% and one of Europe’s youngest populations.

As a major European city region the area deals with transnational policing issues. 15% of arrests in the force area relate to foreign nationals.

The area faces the most significant challenge with terrorism and extremism outside London. The force is a national lead in the delivery of counter terrorism policing.

The force also faces significant challenges in organised crime. It is the lead force in the operation of the National Ballistics Intelligence Service.

The force is focused upon local policing. The force area is divided into 10 local policing units, covering 170 neighbourhoods, each served by a dedicated team.

The force has faced some significant funding cuts; it has responded positively to these challenges and continues to prepare for a future of financial uncertainty. It has had to innovate to meet the austerity challenge. The workforce has reduced by 16% since 2010 but continues to cut crime. It recently formed a strategic partnership with Accenture to deliver the WMP 2020 change programme with the anticipation of further austerity.

The force is focused upon improving its approach to protecting the vulnerable, reducing violence, increasing confidence and reducing demand. It has developed innovative partnerships to supplement strong local work.

The force has demonstrated high ethical standards in crime recording which gives it confidence in the 18.1% reduction in crime since 2010.

Disclaimer: the above statement has been prepared by West Midlands Police. The views and information in it are not necessarily those of HMICFRS.

HMIC says...

West Midlands Police provides policing services to the metropolitan area of the West Midlands. The police force area covers 348 square miles in the centre of England. There are areas of deprivation and affluence in the West Midlands. Around 2.8 million people live in a predominantly urban setting. The force covers the West Midlands conurbation, including the cities of Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Coventry and large surrounding townships. The resident population is ethnically very diverse, with 30 percent from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, and is increased by a large number of university students and the large numbers who visit, socialise in, commute into, or travel through the area each year. The transport infrastructure includes major rail stations and a major airport.

England and Wales is made up of over 181,000 small areas known as census output areas (OAs). These have been defined by the Office for National Statistics to group together people with similar characteristics and to include, on average, 125 households. The size of the geographical area covered by each OA varies according to the population density in different parts of the country. The largest OA in England and Wales covers 20,166 hectares, and the smallest less than 0.02 hectares. A football pitch is approximately 0.75 of a hectare.

There are 8,464 OAs in West Midlands with an average size of 11 hectares which is much smaller than the national average of 87 hectares. While the vast majority (79 percent) of OAs in West Midlands are relatively small at under 10 hectares, a very smaller proportion (one percent) are extremely large in size (over 100 hectares) indicating the urban conurbation with few sparsely populated areas.

The advantage of analysis at output area level is that it supports a people-centred approach. Differences in the socio-economic characteristics of people who live in different OAs lead to different behaviours, including the use of public services. These differences are reflected in the information that is collected in large data sets such as the census, the Ordnance Survey (OS) point of interest data and other quasi-economic sources that have been used in this analysis.

HMIC has been working with the London School of Economics to use econometric techniques to statistically model and predict the level of reactive demands for police services in each OA in England and Wales. Using police incident data and several thousand characteristics (variables) drawn from the census data, OS point of interest data and other smaller data sets for each OA, it has been possible to predict the number of incidents for each OA and determine how challenging each OA is likely to be to police. We have also used the house prices from the Land Registry as a proxy indicator of wealth. West Midlands has a median house price of £133,760 which is lower than the median of England and Wales (£254,549). Excluding the least expensive ten percent and the most expensive ten percent of house prices, there is an 85 percent difference between low and high prices within the force area, suggesting that there are both areas of affluence and poverty.

The predicted number of incidents for each OA varies considerably. In West Midlands, one percent of the OAs accounts for 14 percent of the predicted demands for police services – this is 4.2 percent of the total force area.

A concentration of predicted demands in a small number of OAs is a feature of every police force. We have designated these OAs (approximately 1,800 throughout England and Wales) as a very high challenge to police. These areas of very high challenge are characterised by social deprivation or a concentration of commercial premises (including licensed premises), and in some cases both.

Within West Midlands:

  • the proportion of OAs that are a very high challenge to police based on the predicted level of crime is broadly in line with the national level of one percent;
  • the proportion of OAs that are a very high challenge to police based on the predicted level of anti-social behaviour is higher than the national level of one percent; and
  • the proportion of OAs that are very high challenge to police for the predicted level of emergency and priority calls for assistance is broadly in line with the national level of one percent.

As an indication of the challenge for the police to reach citizens in all parts of West Midlands we calculated the average travel time and distance from the central point of the force area to the centre of each of the 8,464 OAs. These calculations of distance and time are based on using the road network under normal driving conditions and speeds, and indicate the size of the area and the quality of its road network.

West Midlands has 334 miles of motorways and trunk roads but the average travel distance of 9.9 miles (longest 28 miles and shortest 8.7 miles) and the average travel time of 19.4 minutes are lower than the respective national averages of 17 miles and 30 minutes. This demonstrates the size of West Midlands and the nature of its roads.

While the concentration of demands in a small number of locations (covering a very small area) may be helpful in focusing resources, it is not the totality of demand. The provision of services extends beyond those areas that are a very high challenge to police and includes the least challenging and most remote areas. The challenge of providing services throughout West Midlands is a function of many things including the size and topography of the area, the road network and how congested the roads are. These considerations influence how police resources are organised and managed – for example, where police officers are based and their working patterns.